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Monthly Archives: February 2011

It’s My Dream…

When I was a little girl, I used to sit rapturously staring at my grandfather as he re-told the story of losing his license racing in the streets of Philadelphia with a ’68 Camaro.  He had photo albums that I’d page through, stopping only when I got to that full page, black and white photo of it.  I told him that I was going to have one someday.  I don’t think he ever understood that I was serious.  I admired him so much, and craved his attention and love. 

Later, when I got my driver’s license at 16, and started driving a various assortment of crappy cars that had four cylinders, and windshield wipers, heaters, and sometimes brakes that didn’t work; crappy cars that had spray-paint jobs and dings, I dreamed that I was in that Camaro.  I drove down the road, oblivious to the backfire of the exhaust when I pulled out at a stop sign, and pretended I was leaving black marks behind to decorate the asphalt.

It’s 2011 now, and I finally got my Camaro.  What would have been abused, neglected, and ruined when I was 16, is now treasured, appreciated, and loved now that I’m (slightly) older.  It’s not the Camaro of my dreams… No heavy body with a roaring 8 cylinders under the hood, no racing stripes or blue paint job.  Instead, I’ve got a fiberglass body with dings and scratches, a radio that cuts in and out (while playing 80’s music naturally), and a cracked windshield.  All of that matters less when I think, “It’s still mine!”

But that’s the way dreams work, don’t they?  We think we want something so much; we crave it, we want it so bad that we’ll do anything to get it.  Then, when they come true, there’s always something else to want.  There’s always a little tarnish to the dream.

Today, I’m going to take my grandfather for a ride… He died in 2005, and I never really won his love.  I’m going to put the windows down, cruise a cool 35 mph, and talk to my grand-pop.  The tarnish doesn’t matter; I’ve got other dreams to fulfill!

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2011 in Life

 

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Where Were You?

Where were you when your favorite album came out?  What were you doing?  When did you get that album that you remember?  I remember all of the albums that moved me: when I got them, what I was doing, what I was going through.  I don’t think anyone can describe what it is about music that grabs us, lifts us up, puts us down, sends us spiraling, or stops us in our tracks, but I bet everyone has at least one album or song that sets the soundtrack to an event that forever changed them.  Here’s mine:

The Nightmare

July 27, 2010.  I’m at F.Y.E. where I shop for new music religiously.  I’m searching the metal stacks for the album Nightmare; the new one Avenged Sevenfold has just released. I’m excited to get my hands on it; after The Rev died, I wasn’t sure I was ever going to hear new material from this awesome band.

 I see a ton of copies, unfortunately, they’re edited.  I don’t buy edited CD’s… what’s the point?  I drove forty-five minutes from my dumpy town to the nearest place with a music store.  Dickson City can hardly be called a city when compared to Philly or Pittsburgh, but it’s big to me after living in Springville, population 500 or something.  I’m crushed when the clerk tells me they won’t have their new shipment until later that week; that I should have come earlier.  I leave, disappointed, but not without purchasing two or three other albums I want for my collection.

 August 2, 2010.  I’m on my way home from the first meeting of a writer’s critique group that my creative writing teacher has put together, and invited me to.  He seems to think I have talent.  I’m not so sure myself, but I’m hopeful. 

“It was amazing,” I tell my husband, who makes the drive to and from Scranton with me, another small city on the scale, but bigger than I’m used to.  “You could just feel the creative energy.”

I’m bouncing in my seat, thrilled to be recognized as an equal to other writers.  Finally, I’m getting there, I tell myself.  

He smiles, indulgently, at me.  Chuck is not a man of many words, but he is a man of action.  He changes the subject by opening the console of my truck, and pulling out an F.Y.E. bag.  “I love you,” he says, his eyes gleaming in the dashboard lights.  We’re on the back road that cuts out about 30 minutes from our trip, fast approaching the intersection where we’ll make our turn to get home. 

I open the bag, but I already know what’s in there.  I pull out my very own copy of Nightmare.  We’re going around a corner.  I start to squeal a thanks that dies in my throat when we hit a traffic jam on this country road. 

Blue and red lights flash against the black of the sky, reflect off of the tree tops and the metal of cars.  People are standing by the side of the road.  Chuck pulls the truck off to the side of the road and calls home. 

“Dad, is everyone home?”  His voice is pleading, almost a prayer.

 He hangs up, hands shaking.  “It’s Donnie,” he says, opening the door.  “He wrecked his bike.  They don’t know anything else.”

I drop the damned CD as I jerk open my door and start to run toward the intersection.  I see the yellow police tape starting to be strung up like early Christmas lights, and I know in my heart it can’t be good.  Still, I hope.  We hit a barrier of people, locals who know us, strangers, emergency workers, and police officers and shove our way through.  As little as I am, I make it to the highway before Chuck. It’s deathly silent, even with a crowd.

The sight of the mangled ’83 Harley Sportster stops my heart for a breath.  “Oh my God,” I mumble, even as I reach for Chuck.  I can’t take my eyes off it.  I see Joey, Donnie’s best friend, across the road.  I scream for him.

He runs over.  “Joey, what happened?” I ask, even as an emergency worker is approaching, telling us to get away from the scene. 

“That’s my brother’s bike,” Chuck says, authoritative to an outsider, but I know he’s scared by the inflection of his voice.  Just a slightly higher tone, and a tiny shake lets me know he’s terrified.

“Go get a trooper,” the emergency guy says.  Then, I know.  I look back at the bike, and I get shaky and sick.  I look at Joey, begging with my eyes.

“Is he ok?” I stupidly ask.  Donnie’s tough. He’s survived too many accidents to be hurt by this.

 Before the trooper can make his way to us, two giant arms wrap around Chuck and I.  It’s my uncle by marriage, Mark.  “He’s gone guys.  Donnie’s gone.”  Chuck goes to his knees, while I stare in horror at a man I don’t really like.  But Donnie loved him, I think, as he helps Chuck up, while Joey and I stand and look at each other helplessly.

Chuck reaches for me, and I go to him.  We hold each other around the waist, and can only watch the black body bag roll by.  I walk him to the truck and help him in.  I’m driving now, back on home turf.  I’m numb, and the only thing I can think about is how aptly Avenged Sevenfold titled their album, Nightmare.

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Eye of the Tiger

Inspiration comes from all over.  Even a cheesy (but catchy) 80’s tune like Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.”  I’m not knocking it; it’s on my ipod, and I can belt the lyrics out with the best of ’em.  In fact, I did it this morning.  I’m sure my neighbors really appreciated my 80’s nostalgia while listening to me run on the treadmill for 40 minutes.  Anyway, I got what you’d call an epiphany when I sang along with the first verse of the song.  “You trade your passion for glory/don’t lose your grip on the dreams of the past/you must fight just to keep them alive”

The writing has been hell these past couple of weeks, and I figured out why.  I’ve traded my passion for what I love, which is telling a good story, and I’m trying to sell out by writing something “edgy” or “literary” (duel entry in the dictionary: crap with no characters the common people can relate to, or no story) just to be able to say, “I’m published,” and that’s not right!  Stories that matter are the ones where the author kicks our guts with strong characters, and a story line we can relate to.  Books like Fitzgerald’s, The Great Gatsby, kick us in the gut because we all know what it feels like to want something we can’t have; everyone knows what it’s like to be an outsider.  Books like O’Brien’s, The Things They Carried, can hit us over the head because we all can relate to fear, love, and loss. 

I’m sorry, but I can’t relate to a story about a bug that  visits a woman in her bed, which is the crap that is being published these days, people.  I want my work to matter to a real person, not some literary professor who can’t see the real world for fear of mixing with the “common folk.”  I’ll keep my blue collar, thanks.  I want my work to change someone’s life, and that’s good enough for me. 

I tore up the drafts of my “literary fiction” and I’m working on what I know best.  Real people, real places, real stories.  Eye of the Tiger, baby!

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2011 in Writing

 

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What’s Your Process?

Writer’s block… ugh!  I suffer from it at least 3 x’s a week.  There’s nothing like sitting in front of a blank screen, kicking yourself for not getting out of bed last night, and writing that great idea down!  Or worse yet, when you want to get creative, but it’s just not flowing.  What do you do to deal with it?

In my mind, the first way to beating writer’s block is to know your process.  Know what makes you tick.  Think about the times you’ve sat down and wrote that kick-ass essay, or that amazing chapter, or that poem that you have no idea where it came from.  What was playing in the background?  What time was it?  Were you alone, or did you have a million interruptions?  What were you drinking?   Then, try to re-create the scene.  You’d be amazed at how psychosomatic the writer’s life can be.

  • For me, the process starts somewhere between playlist 1 and 40 on my ipod, filled with trash rock and 80’s metal, turned up to max volume.  A freshly brewed pot of coffee, a pack of cigarettes, and the kids over at grandma’s complete my perfect process.  It’s not always possible, but hey, at least I know the ideal setting.

If that’s not working for you, free write.  Since you’re not getting anything done anyway, what’s the harm?  Now’s the time to write that letter to that someone who hurt you, or write that appalling thought that you wouldn’t tell anyone else.  Hell, write a description of your favorite person using only color words, or write a grocery list.  The point is, write SOMETHING!

  • I choose to use the old fashioned method of pen and paper letters when I’m blocked.  I go back to my trusty, rusty notebook, and I write letters.  Letters about my day, what I’m accomplishing, or not accomplishing, or letters about what’s bugging me all go into this notebook, dedicated to a special friend.  I don’t send the letters, I just spew out what’s on my mind.  I’ve gotten a couple of stories and poems based solely on these letters.  Journaling or free writing helps!

If it’s a major case of writer’s block, and none of this crazy stuff helps, then walk away!  Take a deep breath, get up, and get moving.  You can always come back to it later.  Writing with block is like trying to fall asleep after you’re rested.  The more you lay there (or stare at the screen) the more frustrated and angry you become.  Go get some exercise, watch a movie, read a book, or hang out with friends.  A relaxed mind is probably a more creative mind. 

  • I like running 3 or 4 miles on the treadmill to take out my frustration.  It’s energizing, and darn it, I’m trying to negate the damage I’m doing to myself  by smoking in the first place!

Remember, writing’s a living, breathing process!

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2011 in Uncategorized, Writing

 

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What a World…

If only the Wicked Witch of the West could see this: 28 year old writer trying to figure out how to use the tools of technology in this day and age!  She may have just melted quietly!  A couple of people have told me I should start a blog, as I have opinions and ditties of wisdom to share with the world on practically everything…. Unfortunately, they never told me how to do it.  So bear with me as I figure out all the neat little buttons that confuse the creativity right out of me!

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2011 in Uncategorized